|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE The effort to reduce gang violence and to assist at-risk youths in Holyoke and Chicopee received a boost recently when the Shannon grants were announced.
The grant program, named after State Sen. Charles Shannon, is designed "to "support regional and multi-disciplinary approaches to combat gang violence through coordinated programs for prevention and intervention."
The year, the program serving Holyoke and Chicopee received $445,000, and increase of $45,000 over last year the local programs coordinator Eileen Cavanaugh told Reminder Publications.
She said the added funding surprised her, as the program has been level funded for the past two years. She credited the increase to Gov. Deval Patrick's commitment to decrease youth violence.
Cavanaugh, president of the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club, said part of the increase would be used to add a mental health component as well as instituting more substance abuse education within existing programs.
Partners on the grant include Hampden County Sheriff's Department, Holyoke Boys & Girls Club, Holyoke Police Department, NEARI Jumpstart, Career Point, Chicopee Boys & Girls Club and Chicopee Police Department. The initiative also collaborates with Hampden County District Attorney's Office and Holyoke Juvenile Court and Probation.
The Holyoke Police Department has been awarded $100,000 for the fiscal year 2013 with $80,000 committed to the continuation of the Street Crime Unit while the remaining $20,000 will be used to help fund to the Mobil Community Policing Unit.
Cavanaugh said the programs of the initiative take a multi-disciplinary approach that is very targeted. She added that prevention and intervention to keep young people from joining gangs is a key part of the effort.
Up to 500 youths in Holyoke and Chicopee benefit from the program, she added.
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